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St. Stanislaus is out to prove new-look Rockachaws can still contend

Courtesy St. Stanislaus

Don’t be surprised if it’s the defense — and not the vaunted offense — that leads St. Stanislaus in 2017. No, that’s not a misprint.

New coach Jeff Jordan has confidence in the Rockachaws’ offense despite undergoing a heavy makeover from the team that torched South Mississippi opponents over the last three years. But it’s his defense, which returns eight starters, that Jordan is perhaps most excited about.

“I think the kids have really bought in to the new system. I really like where our defense is,” Jordan said during fall camp. “I think they’re really flying around and playing with a lot of confidence and with a chip on their shoulder.”

Without an abundance of size defensively, the Rockachaws will have to rely on their athleticism.

“We’re quick and aggressive. We don’t have a lot of big kids on defense,” Jordan said. “I think our heaviest guy is Nathan Hale, our nose guard, who is probably 260. The rest of them are in the 220 range up front. They’re aggressive. They’re quick. But our linebackers are downhill type guys. We’ll bring Leo (Roos) off the edge, we’ll bring Lee Negrotto off the edge and try to put pressure on quarterbacks. I like that group a lot.”

Experienced defense

The Rockachaws return seven players who recorded at least 49 tackles in 2016, including their two four tacklers Roos (129), J.D. Rutherford (104), Joe Reeder (97) and Lewie Negrotto (97).

St. Stanislaus shocks Biloxi with victory in season opener.

“I like the way those guys are practicing. I like their attitude and confidence,” Jordan said. “We have eight returning starters on defense and impact players with fabulous leadership. I really expect us to win some games this year on defense and special teams.”

Rutherford should be the defensive leader once again. As a junior, Rutherford did a little bit of everything with 104 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions. Jordan said Rutherford’s impact goes beyond the stat sheet.

“J.D. Rutherford is always there,” he said. “He’s the coach on the field and plays with intensity. He loves the game and understands what we’re doing. He probably understands the scheme as much as the defensive coaches do so he gets us lined up right.”

Jordan also pointed to newcomers Cameron Bishop and Nick Hava, plus underclassman Lee Negrotto, to play a big role in the defense’s success.

“Those guys have really stepped into starting roles, have taken it and run with it,” he said. “I’m expecting big things from the defense.”

New offense

Immediately when Jeff Jordan was announced as Bill Conides’ successor, he acknowledged the SSC offense would look a touch different in 2017. It would be hard not to expect the Rockachaws to look different with quarterback Myles Brennan (LSU), tight ends Darius Pittman (Purdue) and Chase Rogers (Louisiana-Lafayette), and receiver Corbin Blanchard (Air Force) scattered across the country at various Division I programs.

Starting in the spring Jordan began implementing his new scheme. With Jake Greer as Brennan’s replacement, SSC’s transitioning to more of a multiple offense, with a different mindset from before.

“It’s obviously going to be a different profile with more running, less passing and less fast tempo,” Jordan said. “But I expect them to pull their weight, too. They’re developing as a good, quality offense.”

The Rockachaws clearly expect to do a number of different things in 2017 offensively.

“We’ll be very multiple. We’ll still base out of a spread look, but we’ll run the ball first and throw the ball second,” he said. “We’ll try to spread people out and get running lanes. We’ll run a little option. We’ll still be a zone team inside and outside. We’ll use play action and then still drop back and throw it.

“You’ll see some similarities to last year’s offense, but you’ll just see the priorities change a little bit from pass-run to run-pass.”

The big question throughout the spring and summer was what will Greer look like at quarterback?

The senior had just 18 career passes under his belt entering the season, but Jordan is confident he’ll lead SSC into a new era.

“I’m really pleased with Jake’s progress. He has a great grasp of the offense,” Jordan said. “He’s a dual-threat quarterback in every sense of the word. He has worked hard, taken coaching well and he’s a confident quarterback right now. I think Jake is ready to buckle his chinstrap right now and go play. He’s ready.”

The weight of the offense won’t entirely be on Greer’s shoulders. He has the benefit of playing behind a solid offensive line, with veterans at running back and a go-to target in receiver Harrison Brewer who has caught 76 passes for 996 yards and seven touchdowns in his career.

Cahill Marlowe was injured most of last year but has nearly 1,000 career yards rushing and 10 touchdowns to his credit. The last two seasons Andrew Trapani has rushed for almost 700 yards and nine scores. Taylor Necaise and Jackson Thriffiley should also add playable depth at the position.

“(Trapani) is deceptively fast, he runs hard and is a down-hill runner,” Jordan said. “He’s over 200 pounds but doesn’t look like it.”

Jordan Skinner and Brandon Tartavoulle will set a good foundation for the SSC line at center and right tackle respectively. Alex Rimmer (left tackle), Ronald Aleman (left guard) and Chris Smith (right guard) round out the projected starters.

“Jordan sets the coverages and Tart gets us lined up right,” Jordan said. “Between those two guys we have a solid nucleus.”

The bottom line is if SSC is going to continue to win, it will have to play smart football and win both the time of possession and turnover battles. Playing with confidence, Jordan said, will also be a deciding factor on Friday nights.

“These kids expect to win because they’re at a school that has a tradition of winning,” Jordan said. “When they hit the field it doesn’t matter who they’re playing, they’re expecting to win. We have to make sure we take care of the football, eliminate turnovers offensively and create them defensively.

“If we can do that I like our chances.”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

St. Stanislaus schedule

Aug. 18: At Biloxi

Sept. 1: At St. Paul’s (Mobile, Ala.)

Sept. 8: At St. Martin

Sept. 15: Pearl River Central

Sept. 22: Madison-Ridgeland Academy

Sept. 29: Vancleave (HC)

Oct. 6: Bay

Oct. 13: At East Central

Oct. 20: Moss Point

Oct. 27: At Pass Christian

St. Stanislaus roster

1 Andrew Trapani

2 Jake Greer

3 Cahill Marlowe

4 JD Rutherford

5 Jake Gardner

6 Leon Negrotto

7 Will Greer

8 Pat Greer

9 Breck LeFlore

10 Delvin Henry Jr.

11 Dallas Payne

12 Cameron Bishop

13 Bradley Darby

14 Taylor Lafontaine

15 Easton Logan

16 Keaton Cunningham

17 Harrison Brewer

18 Max Favre

19 Connor Ladner

20 Andrew Mayer

21 Jackson Triffiley

22 Trace Rhodes

23 Preston Perez

24 William Weber

25 Taylor Necaise

26 Manning Gex

28 John Gregory

29 Nicholas Quintini

30 Trustin Northington

32 Cameron Baehr

33 Nick Hava

34 Caleb Stieffel

35 Tristan Aldridge

36 Grant Sides

37 Beau Rimmer

39 Nicholas Toepfer

40 Gene Hoffman

42 Brennan Toepher

44 Lewie Negrotto

45 Thomas Weber

48 Brennan Gebbia

50 Leo Roos

51 William Trapani

52 Chris Smith

53 Joe Lawson

54 Joe Reeder

55 Jacob Hanlon

56 Alex Rimmer

58 Connor Moran

60 Nathan Cox

63 Ronald Aleman

64 Nicholas Ray

65 Tyler Necaise

66 Samuel Carter

67 Andrew Castle

68 Seth Cook

70 Peyton Prudhomme

71 Hogan Benvenutti

72 Jordan Skinner

74 Prentice Wallace

75 Brandon Tartavoulle

76 William Pennell

78 Ryan McClennon

80 Daniel Wolfe

82 Nicholas Clogher

83 William Kimbrell

84 Thomas Williams

88 Blake Bilich

89 Nour Tayara

90 Bridge Leflore

91 Andrew Dufrene

92 Carson Rogers

93 Brady Favre

94 Nate McCormick

95 Austin Gardner

99 Nathan Hale

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